Highrise Heroes: Word Challenge Review

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I’m all for a good puzzle game, but even I have to admit that their basic presentations and formats can become a bit tiresome after a while. After all, when it comes to books, you usually complete a couple of pages before laying it back down. However, within a digital format, there is so much more that can be done to make a puzzle game more playable. There are plenty of examples to choose from these days, with many games of its genre now containing narratives, role-playing elements or simply presenting you with a journey. Yes, the basic template still remains, but with an extra layer, it can force the player to carry on the momentum of “just one more go”. There seems to have been a trend of late with such games, the latest iteration being Fallen Tree Games’ Highrise Heroes: Word Challenge as it spells out a release onto the Nintendo Switch.

Following what appears to have been an earthquake, the game revolves the setting of escaping a crumbling building; all ninety-nine floors of it. You follow the exploits of Seb, a new employee on his first day within the fated office block, as you help him escape to freedom. Along the way, you meet a colourful cast of characters, including secretaries, androids and chimps, and together, you not only stumble over the bricks and masonry of the dilapidated building, but also stumble upon a conspiracy that reveals the origins of the “quake”, as well as few other sinister and science-fiction surprises along the way.

Starting from the top of the building, you must work your way down, with each floor representing a level, or puzzle over a series of chapters. This in turn gives the game over ninety puzzles that need to be solved, as well as a few extra additions and modes to keep you going after the end game. Between each level, or puzzle, a narrative pushes the story along; introducing new characters, revealing plot-lines and generally producing a tongue-in-cheek humour to keep things ticking along. In order to progress the story, as well as the game, you then need to complete a series of puzzles that are based around word-building and dropping tiles from the top of the playing area to the bottom.

The general layout of these levels follows a pattern of tiles that contain the portraits of the game’s characters. These are then surrounded by a number of lettered tiles. In order to create a path for the characters to escape, you must chain together a sequence of letters to form a word. This in turn, removes the tiles and allows the ones above them to drop down; either a bit or to the bottom of the grid. However, this is no set puzzle, as the layout of the letters are completely randomised. This in turn, does add an element of luck, but with skill too, you can easily create a number of words of varying length to rescue the stranded employees of the office block.

Using either the Switch’s joy-con controllers or the touch-screen, you select a starting point, or letter, and then select or swipe to create a word. Similar to a wordsearch puzzle, but not the same, you can string together a series of letters along the horizontal, vertical and diagonal axes. However, within this grid, you can change your axis, or direction, at any time to snake around the playing area. Once your word has been created and activates a green border around it, you then submit the solution and watch the action unfold; chaining sequences of falling, disappearing and exploding blocks as your characters fall ever closer to the safe exit at the bottom of the screen.

However, to mix things up, each of the floors present a variety of objectives, obstacles and mash-ups to keep things interesting, as well as add a layer of difficulty and challenge to overall game. Some of these elements show some clever planning and create a layer of tension for the player in finding a solution. For instance, each of the characters may find themselves on a level that has limited oxygen. With each turn taken, the oxygen levels deplete. However, in order to keep your characters alive, you then need to string together a word that passes through blue “oxygen” tiles, as well as continue your snake to link together the characters that need air. It adds a restrictive element that forces thinking, but it’s never an impossible or frustrating task. In fact, it’s all the more rewarding as you chain together a seven or eight letter word, as well as join the combination to three or four survivors and ensure their safety. This is further enhanced by certain chain lengths also producing exploding blocks that can clear lines, columns and even large areas of the playing grid; the longer the word, the bigger the explosion.

Other variations of the puzzles also include time limits, move limits, ticking bombs, concrete tiles that need to be chipped away at, indestructible blocks, rescuing a set number of characters and a few, simple number games; just to confuse you! Each level provides you with a set of instructions that need to be fulfilled and your task is always easily understandable, such as rescue eighteen monkeys, or all characters within ninety seconds or clear as many numbered tiles that combine to add to a specific total. Despite the huge number of levels available here, very rarely does the game present two levels the same, as there’s usually something thrown in for good measure; ensuring that your always testing your old grey matter to good effect.

In order to provide a helping hand should you find yourself stuck or without a sequence of tiles to help you, each character possesses an ability that can be utilized if they are still present on the grid; once rescued, they are no longer usable. For instance, a specific character can replenish another characters oxygen level, whilst another can swap two tiles, or swipe a tile sideways. Activating each ability is easily executed and the game does a great job of introducing each ability and keeping you informed of whom does what. The difficulty all of these components supply is pleasingly challenging, making this a puzzle game that is a joy to play through. This is further bolstered by a series of extras that include a chimp challenge game mode that adds twelve extra puzzles, floor specific challenges, in-game achievements, character bios, a three-star award system and high-score charts.

Overall, Highrise Heroes: Word Challenge offers an interesting style of puzzling that word lovers will find spell-binding. Its unique take on the genre of word-building provides a stern challenge, especially with its random nature to letter-tile placements; forcing you to create words, rather than find existing ones. It’s easy to understand and follow, yet difficult to master; although this can be largely down an element of luck at times. Its overall presentation is further bolstered by its themes of escaping a collapsing building by playing through each floor at a time, as well as its humorous dialogue and ever-changing style of play. The soundtrack too, is also worth noting, with it melodic and meaningful tones that matches the themes surrounding the game. If you enjoy a good puzzle game, like myself, then you’ll find a love letter within this word building challenge.

It’s also worth noting that at the time of writing of writing this review, Highrise Heroes: Word Challenge is currently priced at £1.25 on the Nintendo eShop until the 18/05/2020. Now, that’s a bargain that doesn’t need spelling out.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to press@4gn.co.uk.

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Highrise Heroes: Word Challenge Review
  • Gameplay - 8/10
  • Graphics - 7/10
  • Sound - 9/10
  • Replay Value - 8/10
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